Before checking out for what has unfortunately become an annual book-finishing holiday hiatus, I'd like to commend to your attention scattered events around New York. The St. Lawrence Quartet, one of the most passionately committed chamber groups in North America, are losing their co-founding violinist Barry Shiffman to the Banff Centre in Canada. It's a very amicable parting of ways (in contrast to the remarkable ugliness that has attended the split-up of the Audubon Quartet). You'll have several more chances this season to see the St. Lawrences in their classic incarnation; they'll be participating in Lincoln Center's Osvaldo Golijov festival in February, and they're playing a free show Monday (12/5) at Mikhail Baryshnikov's new arts center (see Steve Smith's blog for more on this innovative series). Other events that seem worthy: the Philadelphia Orchestra, giving New Yorkers a taste of their Beethoven-plus-modern series at Carnegie on Tuesday (new Jennifer Higdon piece; I wish they'd brought the new Daniel Kellogg, too); the Keys to the Future piano festival on Tuesday and Thursday at Greenwich House in the West Village, with Lisa Moore, Joseph Rubinstein, Molly Morkowski, and Tatjana Rankovich playing Ligeti, John Halle, Martin Bresnick, David Del Tredici, Paul Lansky, and others; the young British pianist Steven Osborne at Zankel on Thursday; the category-confounding Anti-Social Music will hold a "CD release kegger" with the Hold Steady on Saturday night, and, on the same night, Eighth Blackbird celebrates its tenth anniversary; the master Lieder singer Christoph Prégardien undertaking Winterreise at Lincoln Center on what will hopefully be a bleakly beautiful Sunday afternoon; a composer=performer concert at Symphony Space on Dec. 14, in which Derek Bermel (now blogging), Beata Moon, and Valerie Coleman will assist in the performance of each other's music; and Prism Concerts, Judith Clurman's promising new series at Central Synagogue, presents a Handelathon with such feisty young singers as Jennifer Aylmer and Kevin Burdette, Dianne Berkun's Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Also, the masterly Charles Curtis will be presenting modern cello works over the next couple of weeks under the auspices of La Monte Young's MELA Foundation; Morton Feldman's Patterns in a Chromatic Field falls on Dec. 14. Happy holidays, and see you in 2006.
Filmic postscript: Brokeback Mountain is not merely the great serious gay movie that some of us have been waiting for our whole lives, but a classic portrait of American loneliness and longing. There's a haunting score by Gustavo Santaolalla, Golijov's collaborator on Ayre. The New Yorker web site has the Annie Proulx story on which the movie is based. Personal footnote: Kate Mara, who plays opposite Heath Ledger in the quietly shattering final scene, was the maid of honor at my and Jonathan's wedding last June.